Three

Welcome to the Three series, a set of one-shots, or vignettes, focusing on the three years Juliet and Sawyer spent on the Dharma Initiative, between 1974 and 1977. Each chapter will be an independent episode, and my intention is to post them in chronological order; in case that doesn't happen, I will let you know and place the story in our timeline.

Thank you I advance for reading. Constructive criticism is welcome, and so are comments. :D

Note: a big 'thank you' goes to my girl, Kari, who spell-checked this fiction for me.

Night arrangements

She stares at the ocean in front of her, her legs dangling from the dock, as the waves crash beneath it. The darkness doesn't allow her to see far away, but for now the water is enough to calm her down, to make her head weigh a little less than before, to slow the pitter-patter of her heart.

He's sitting right next to her, as if he's looking out for her. She just promised to stay for two more weeks, to go and find out if any of their other friends and acquaintances are on the island, and she doesn't know if it was the wrong or right decision, but it makes her feel uneasy. His presence makes her feel uneasy. It's like she can't break down in front of him. She's afraid of his judgement, of his opinion, she who was never afraid of anyone's opinions before. The uncertainty of her feelings in his presence comes mostly from that embarrassment, as if she was a school girl trying not to gush when she saw her boy crush go by.

These feelings, even though they're not the last on her mind, are far from being her primary concern. Their life is her primary concern. She doesn't know what the future has in store for them. She can predict what will happen in the United States of America the next day, but she doesn't know if she is going to be alive to witness it, or even if she should witness whatever it is that is going on in the world. The repercussions her presence may have at this time (being in two places at the same time, who would have thought they'd be the ones to do it?) are unknown, but a fierce presence takes her mind, as if to remind her that 1974 is not really her time.

The strange thing about that issue is that she feels at home. It worries her, that her being there might not be right, but now she feels at home. In 1974 everything is right in her life: her parents haven't divorced, her sister doesn't have cancer, and even though her lovely nephew isn't a part of the world yet, she has never met him to begin with, so she doesn't actually miss him. She feels, even though this is not where she should be, the safety of a home. Maybe it was all supposed to bring her here.

She feels him move beside her, and their forearms touch lightly. She's comforted by his presence, by his patient smile, though she can feel him growing restless. Sawyer was never a man to stay at the same place for too long, or to be still for a long period of time. She understands him, and turns her face to look at his, with the intent of telling him he can go, he can leave her alone with her own thoughts. The sight in front of her, though, is different from what she expected.

His arms are pinned behind him, supporting the weight of his torso; his face is turned straight ahead, his chin tilted slightly up, his eyes closed. He's whispering something, his lips moving softly, his breath coming out with just a little bit of sound. She finds herself staring, taking him in for the first time. She tries to make sense of what he's saying; it doesn't take long for her to realize he's singing, that low, almost inaudible whisper translating into what's perhaps a pop song, or a country classic. She doesn't know, and she doesn't care to know. All she asks for is that he doesn't stop, that his voice keeps accompanying the water, and lulling her into a state of sleepiness, almost like a high conscience moment.

Her prayers go unanswered as soon as he realizes she is staring at him. His eyes open suddenly, focusing on her face, which startles her out of her daze. She doesn't know how long it's been since she's had her eyes on his lips.

He seems embarrassed, almost childlike, when he realizes she was staring at him. It takes a moment for his smug smile to reach his face, and for his dimples to show; the same moment it takes for her to regain her composure, smiling lightly.

"You didn't tell me you were singer," she says, her smile widening when she realizes, even in the darkness, that his cheeks are slightly redder.

"I could've made it to the hall of fame, Blondie." He smiled in response to her words. "If only they'd let me."

Her laughter fills the small space between them. It isn't the normal laughter, the low rumbling from the inside of her chest that used to make everyone around her smile. It was a quiet laugh, her chest heaving slightly. He laughs lightly, too, and looks straight up, his face growing serious.

Juliet sees the seriousness is his face and her own smile crumbles.

"I wonder how we're going to stay, how will we make them believe we don't mean any harm." She murmurs, and he nods.

"It's just two weeks, Blondie."

"No, it's not." His inquisitive face makes Juliet roll her eyes, smiling slightly. "It's going to take much longer than that to check every corner of the island, James. We're staying for a while."

He shakes his head "You promised two weeks. I don't expect you to stay any longer than you're supposed to." She hears the disappointment in his voice, and it makes her stomach drop a little, regretful of even starting that conversation.

"I'll stay for as long as you stay," she whispers, and his face turns, his eyes locking with hers. She feels the charge for the first time, the chemistry they have and the possibility that lies within them, but pushes the thoughts away quickly. "I don't know anyone back in the real world, James. Wouldn't make much sense for me to leave alone anyway."

His face lights up with a dimpled smile, and Juliet fights not to follow it, not to let herself be lured into the depths of his eyes.

"Well then, Blondie. I'm glad you're in for the long ride."

She finally smiles, her eyes leaving his to follow the trail to the light of the moon, right above the sea. Their forearms touch again, and a giggle leaves her throat, as she gets to a state that is very close to giddy.

A noise behind them makes both their smiles vanish, and Juliet follows Sawyer as he stands up. They stare into the darkness of the path that leads to the barracks, fear invading them for a moment. They don't touch each other; Sawyer's arms are stretched along his body, at an angle that looks strangely protective of the woman behind him; Juliet's limbs are still limp

Sawyer's body relaxes as he realizes that the man who approaches them is Horace, his hair tied behind his neck, his usually clumsy walk marking the pavement. Juliet takes a deep breath and, despite the smile on the other man's face, she can tell Sawyer still feels uneasy.

"We cleared out a house for you," he says loudly as he approaches them. "Your friends are already in there. It's a two bedroom house, so I guess you'll have to figure out a way to give the lady some space."

Juliet observes as Sawyer's charm grows into place. It's like watching him put on a mask; he goes from James to Sawyer in a second; from emotionally clumsy guy to self-indulgent conman, all in a small fraction of time.

She sees it because she can do it as well as he does. She can go from Juliet, Jules, the fragile doctor who is still heartbroken because of the many people she has lost in her life, to Juliet-the-other, self-sufficient, witty and always secretive.

They both have their masks on, even though Horace's concern for their well-being seems genuine. He rambles about a house, a place he's settled for the four of them.

"Just because you're only staying for a while, doesn't mean you have to sleep out in the jungle, right?" he continues, and Sawyer smiles an irresistible smile.

"Alrighty, Horace. My friends and I are thankful, I assure you." His snarky tone goes unnoticed to Horace, but not to Juliet, who struggles not to giggle.

An awkward smile takes up time between them, as Horace regards the two of them, and as Juliet stares, extremely amused, at a very uncomfortable Sawyer. After a few moments, Horace indicates the way to the barracks and smiles.

"Shall we?"

---------------------------

The house Horace provided for them is the classic Dharma house, like so many they have been in. The pantry is filled with food and other things they might need, and when Juliet and Sawyer get there, Miles and Jin are already eating.

"So, Juliet, you leaving tomorrow?" Miles tone is almost judgemental, and she finds herself looking the other way before answering his question.

"No. I'm staying for a little while." She replies, looking through the window to the outside of the house. Sawyer is on the other side of the living room, sprawled out in the couch, his eyes closed. She knows he's listening, but she doesn't want to give him away, so her eyes turn outside once again. "Why, are you leaving tomorrow?" she hears herself ask.

Miles shakes his head before he answers. He finishes the spoon full of Dharma cereal he is eating and looks up at her to reply. "No. I'm staying."

"He worries about sleeping," Jin blurts out, and Miles pushes his shoulder lightly, but also aggressively. Juliet knows what the worry is about; she's the woman, in 1974 she has to get the room to herself, otherwise it can be considered odd. She also knows that for her to get the room, one of the men will have to sleep on the couch.

Sawyer opens one eye and stares at Juliet, who stares right back at him. Their eyes don't lose each other while he speaks up. "Worried 'bout what, Bruce?"

Miles looks at them as if they're all stupid, and Juliet feels like punching him to the ground.

"I don't want to be the inconvenient one, but really. She's a woman. She'll need the whole room to herself and…"

"One of us will have to sleep on the couch." Sawyer finishes. "Well, Bruce, since you're talking about it anyway, you might be the one to sleep there…"

"No way, man! She can sleep in the other room, and why should I have to be the one to…"

"Guys…" she tries to interrupt, but the effort is pointless.

"She can sleep on the big room, she gets more space to…" Sawyer and Miles keep trading possibilities, and the fact that they are ignoring her starts to get to her nerves. When she tries to interrupt one last time, and they both ignore her, she settles against the wall.

"Guys!" Juliet yells loud enough that they both look at her, stunned. Miles has got a spoon on the way to his mouth (she wonders why he keeps eating while having a fight with the other man) and Sawyer's face is now half shocked, half amused. "I can sleep in the couch, thank you very much."

"No way, Blondie."

"No, we'll find a way."

Juliet tries not to laugh at the way both men now want that spot, but she's made up her mind. "Shut up, the two of you. I'll sleep on the couch, you can share a bedroom or take up the other one as well." She walks into the master bedroom, where Horace told her she would be able to find some clothes, and chooses a t-shirt and a pair of flannel pants as pajamas; she walks into the bathroom, while the men are still silent, and turns on the water, preparing for a shower.

She doesn't look at herself in the mirror. Juliet is very much aware of her beauty and of the effect she has on men, but she has taught herself not to rely on that. She peels her clothes off, one by one, her hair being the last item loosened; she enters the shower and the feeling of water running down her body is almost orgasmic. She washes herself and allows her mind to wander.

She's used to this, she's had this life for three years before the Oceanic people walked into her life. But it seems so far away, so many lives ago. She never thought she'd end up having feelings for one of them, or that she'd fight Ben and Alpert and whoever turned against her. Strangely enough, the Juliet she knew in 2001, before she was brought to the island, was much sadder than the Juliet who is in this shower right now, in 1974. There's a feeling of contentedness, almost like what she felt in the dock, when she realized she was meant to be there.

She finishes her shower and dries herself. She's standing in front of the mirror with a brush in her hand (she wonders who might have used it before her) when she hears a knock on the door.

"Yes?" she calls out. She dresses herself quickly, her hair almost combed through.

"Blondie?" Sawyer's voice is soft, almost whispered. "Jin and Miles took over the room with single beds, so I'm sleeping on the couch."

Juliet opens the door to find a startled Sawyer, still dirty and muddy from his previous adventures. She smiles slightly at him, careful not to be too nice, as she passes him on the way to the hall. "No, James. You're sleeping in that bedroom. I'll sleep on the couch. I probably won't sleep much, anyway."

She walks to the couch and lays down, pulling a blanket on top of her. Sawyer is still beside the bathroom, his expression unreadable. Juliet looks back from the couch and sees him walk into the room, closing the door loudly behind himself, and she giggles, settling against the pillow.

Against her best predictions, she falls asleep immediately, exhaustion taking over. She sleeps deeply until she feels a pair of arms taking her body, and her eyes shoot open, but a known whisper calms her down.

"Shhhh, Blondie. No way in hell you're gonna sleep on that couch." Sawyer whispers against her ear, and she allows her head to fall on his shoulder, almost asleep again. A moment later, he lays her down on the freshly made bed, and she turns to her side as he tucks the covers around her.

There's a pause, and her eyes open. She almost wishes he would plant a kiss on her cheek or forehead. She craves that kind of attention. Still, he's timid, which is so unlike him that it makes her want to laugh. He touches her shoulder lightly, the backs of his fingertips grazing her skin lightly, as he whispers "Sleep tight, Juliet."

He closes the bedroom door behind him and Juliet smiles, her heart finding a small spot of comfort for the first time in a very long while.